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Is Big Brother Watching You? - CCTV Surveillance At Work 

by Davinia Brennan

Published: April, 2014

Submission: April, 2014


CCTV surveillance is becoming increasingly prevalent in every aspect of our lives.  Recognizable images of people captured by CCTV cameras constitute "personal data" as defined in the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003 ("the DPAs"). Accordingly, all use of CCTV by employers must be undertaken in compliance with the DPAs.

Recent headlines such as "Dunnes Store employee sacked from her job after she was caught on camera eating €10 worth of chicken goujons" (Irish Independent, 26th February 2014) highlights the wide-spread use of CCTV for security purposes and for monitoring employees' performance, and raises questions as to whether such use is lawful.

This article examines some of the issues which employers should consider before installing CCTV systems, in order to remain compliant with the DPAs.

Obligations of Employers

Transparency and proportionality are the key considerations to be taken into account by an employer before they install a CCTV system.

I. Transparency

The use of CCTV must be "transparent".  Section 2(1)(a) and Section 2D of the DPAs require personal data to be obtained and processed fairly, and for certain information to be supplied to an individual before their data are collected and processed.  In order to comply with these provisions, an employer should notify employees and any clients or customers whose image will be captured on camera, of the use of CCTV cameras and the purpose for which they are used.  Surveillance should only be carried out to give effect to the stated purpose and any ancillary use will most likely be unlawful.

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